Manon Zinck-Dambach from Alsace received 38% of all votes
From the beginning of August to the end of September 2023, German speakers all over the world were able to vote for the fourth time on who should be “German Abroad of the Year”. Four women of German origin from Ukraine, Canada, the USA and Alsace in Eastern France were in the final of this competition, which is now the most important by and for Germans abroad and the largest for German-speaking women in the world. The decisive factor in the election, which was organized by IMH-Internationale Medienhilfe (International Media Aid), was once again the participants‘ commitment to their own culture.
The counting has now been completed and the result is clear: the winner is Manon Zinck-Dambach from Mommenheim, near the German-French border and not far from the Alsatian capital of Straßburg/Strasbourg. She received 38% of the over 7,800 votes cast from around the world.
Ms. Zinck-Dambach is a German teacher with a university degree. After working at bilingual primary schools in Alsace for five years, she has specialized entirely in private teaching of the Alsatian dialect since 2022. In order to convey Alsatian to children in a playful and funny way or to reactivate their interest, she uses two hand puppets that are typical of the region and are called “Hafele and Storichele”. A bilingual children’s book by her featuring the two award-winning characters will soon be published. In her free time, Manon Zinck-Dambach also works as an actress and author in a German-speaking dialect theater. As a child, French was a foreign language to her because her parents, who have lived in the region for generations and have German ancestors, only spoke the German dialect from Alsace to her at home. Although the more than 1 million German-speaking Alsatians in eastern France are the largest German minority in Europe, they are neither recognized nor supported as such by the French or German governments. To date, the central government in Paris has not ratified the European Minority Charter and the European Charter for Regional Languages like other EU states. The situation of the Alsatians is therefore considerably worse than that of, for example, German minorities in Romania or Hungary. Media and schools that report or teach entirely in standard German were previously banned in the border region and continue to be significantly hindered or almost completely prevented. To this day, demonstrations continue to take place against the complete incorporation of Alsace into the predominantly French-speaking giant “Greater East” district.
Björn Akstinat, head of the network of German-speaking foreign media (IMH-Internationale Medienhilfe) and originator of the competition:
“In fact, all of the candidates deserve the title because each of them does excellent and exemplary work abroad. But as in every election, one participant gets slightly more votes than the others.
This fourth round of the competition was once again a complete success. The aim is specifically to reward female members of German communities and minorities around the globe for their previous activities or to motivate them to help in German clubs, media and other institutions. Women are still underrepresented in many German institutions abroad. The aim of the competition is also to draw greater attention in Germany to the great cultural achievements and traditions of Germans abroad. Many citizens of the Federal Republic know next to nothing about the German minorities worldwide, as they are hardly discussed in lessons at schools and universities between Flensburg and Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Manon, who is from Alsace, is particularly suitable for the title of “German Abroad of the Year 2023” and serves as a positive role model for the entire Alsace. The region was once one of the cultural centers of the German-speaking area. In Strasbourg, for example, the first German-language newspaper was published in 1605, which was also the first newspaper in the world. After the war, German culture was systematically suppressed in Alsace. It is only recently that the people of Alsace have dared to use their dialect in public again. But High German, which used to be their media and written language as a matter of course, still has to lead a shadowy existence. Women like Manon encourage the population and motivate them to pursue important causes together. The great new unity of the Alsatians was shown, among other things, in the strong support of Manon in this competition.”
Portraits of the three other finalists:
She is Ukrainian-German and lives in Munkatsch/Mukachevo, a city in the far west of the country. A large number of people of German origin, who were originally brought from Franconia/Bavaria, have lived in the Mukachevo region, also known as Transcarpathia, for around 300 years. They have their own cultural center in the city, which was founded by Diana’s grandmother. Diana leads the center’s award-winning German-speaking girls‘ choir. He has the beautiful name “Singende Herzen” (Singing Hearts) and has already performed several performances abroad. Diana not only tries to keep the language of her ancestors alive with the choir, but also works as a German teacher. The continued existence of the German cultural center in Mukachevo is unfortunately at risk because the ownership structure is unclear. Seen nationwide, the war threatens the existence of the German minority as a whole. Many of the more than 30,000 Ukrainian Germans are on the run and in some regions German cultural centers have been completely destroyed by shelling.
She is a founding member of the “Society for Contemporary American Literature in German (SCALG)” and editor of the only magazine for modern German-language literature in the USA called “TRANS-LIT2”. After Irmgard, who was born in Silesia, emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1963, she studied German there. She then worked for decades as a university lecturer and professor of German language and literature – most recently at the Colorado State University in Fort Collins, where she is still involved in the local German club. She is so enthusiastic about her native language that she not only promoted it academically and trained countless German teachers, but also wrote poetry and prose in German in her new home. Goethe’s language is more alive in the USA than you think. Around 100 German-language magazines, newsletters and newspapers appear there. These include the oldest magazine and the oldest weekly newspaper in German in the world. Over 50 million Americans are of German descent. They represent the largest ethnic group in the country – far ahead of the population with Irish, Mexican or English roots. About 10 percent of German-Americans – which also includes Sandra Bullock, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kirsten Dunst – still speak or understand German. In the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana it is not uncommon to hear German on the streets. The Amish people living there, who originally immigrated from southwest Germany, use their traditional mother tongue as a matter of course in everyday life.
Born in Nuremberg, she has lived in Canada since 1961 and has been the presenter of the German-language station RADIO HERZ in Waterloo near Toronto for 25 years. The station was founded by her partner Paul. He and Heidi run it together with a group of committed volunteers. Initially, the program with exclusively German music was broadcast via antenna, cable and satellite in the greater Toronto area, where there are a particularly large number of German speakers and where several cities were founded by Germans. For many years now, people have been broadcasting over the Internet in order to reach over three million people of German descent across Canada. German Canadians are the third largest population group in the country after residents whose ancestors originally came from Great Britain and France. In some places where Mennonites of German origin live in large numbers, German is still the everyday and colloquial language today. Unfortunately, the continued existence of the unique radio project RADIO HERZ with request concerts, interviews with German pop singers or live events in German-Canadian clubs is at risk because Heidi and Paul can hardly cope with the work due to their age. Successors are being sought.
IMH-Internationale Medienhilfe (International Media Aid) is the network of German-speaking media abroad. Outside Germany, Austria and Switzerland there are over 2,000 newspapers, magazines, radio and television programs in German. They support each other within the network and organize joint activities such as the election of “German Abroad of the Year”. In the first round of the competition, a Hungarian German received the most votes. The second time a Romanian German won and the third time a Namibian German took the title. The sponsor of the special competition is the Stiftung Deutsche Sprache (German Language Foundation).
Internationale Medienhilfe (IMH)
Network of German-language media abroad
and foreign language media domestically
PO Box 35 05 51
Article from the Canadian daily newspaper „Waterloo Region Record“ for the greater Toronto area:
Article from the Canadian daily newspaper „Waterloo Chronicle“ from the city of Waterloo near Toronto:
Report from the German news television channel ntv on the competition of Internationale Medienhilfe (IMH):
Article from the German daily newspaper „Berliner Zeitung“:
Report from the German television channel RTL: